The continuation of the previous part…
President and Evil Priests
In our previous chapters we left Krishna in the royal hall of the king Yudhisthira, putting to an end the small insurrection of Sisupala. The single strike of the flying discus was enough to clear up the path for the king Yudhisthira to his rajasuya procedure to obtain the imperial status. However, this episode was only a small nuisance in the march of the king to his Emperorship.
The master of the local king Sisupala, not the heavenly one, but the earthly person, supreme king Jarasandha, has proven to be a much more substantial threat to Yudhisthira’s dreams. He has been much more successful in his strife to the status of the Emperor. He has vanquished more then hundred kings, and, by doing so, he claimed not only what Yudhisthira was asking from the kings he defeated – a consent to be subjects to the imperial rule, but much, much more.
Sisupala was bolstering in the Yudhisthira’s hall about disrespects of the king and his tutor Bhishma to the rights, status and honor of the royal quorum. However, being a general of the Jarasandha, Sisupala committed such deeds, as well as his master, which were direct and imminent insults to any king on the planet. Later, in the verbal duel between Krishna and Jarasandha, Krishna stressed that the Kshatriyas (Rajas or Warrior-Kings) are judged not by their words, but by their deeds. Deeds of the king Jarasandha were indeed terrible, horrific and atrocious.
It’s all started from the Jarasandha’s bizarre birth, the birth literally from two mothers. His parents were honest and virtuous people, rulers of the city Magadha. Jarasandha’s father, king Brihadratha, who, by the way, has inherited the aerial chariot of Vasu Uparicara, was happily married on two twin sisters. However, how that frequently happens in Hindu mythology, the family was caught in a hasty, and poorly thought-through oath. King Brihadratha promised his wives that he would not insult either of them by a disproportional attention to one over another.
This exemplary marriage, though, was overshadowed by the inability of either wife to conceive. As usual in such circumstances, the king appealed to an ascetic living in the nearby forest. The latter gave the king Brihadratha a mango fruit, and told him to give it to his spouse, and the problem will be resolved. King Brihadratha, bounded by his oath, cut the fruit in half and gave the halves to his beloved twin wives. As readers may guess, both spouses conceived and gave the birth, in the right time, to two half-babies. In the great grief, both mothers left their half-sons, wrapped into cloth sheets, on the closest to the palace crossroad, the domain of Rudra-Shiva.
Soon after, a Shivaic demon Rakshasi, in search of human flesh, stumbled upon the parcels. Unwrapped the contents, she decided to make perfect sandwich, but, being put together, both halves instantly joined, forming a healthy and vigorous child, who created such a great commotion resisting the demon, that the royal court ran out of the palace to see what’s going on. Surrounded by the crowd, Rakshasi decided to postpone a meal for later, and pretended that she invoked the miracle.
The same time an ascetic who gave the mango fruit to the king Brihadratha appeared from the woods and proclaimed that Jarasandha now has a protection of Rudra-Shiva over him, and he will be unbeatable in battles and invulnerable to weapons while he stays firmly devoted to his divine patron.
Jarasandha, indeed, did demonstrate his zealous devotion to Rudra-Shiva in his grizzly addiction to human sacrifice. All these kings Jarsandha defeated in battle, as well as their royal families, he ferried on the aerial chariot to the his impregnable, high-mountain keep, and utilized that keep as a kind of power generating station. When Jarsandha was in need of the Shiva’s favor, he sacrificed somebody of his royal captives.
Being a ‘Mitraic’ king, the king of the Rajana’s wing which is closer to the neighboring Brahmana caste, or chivalrous king who don’t like to wage wars and shade blood unnecessary, Yudhisthira hesitates initially, despite that his imperial ambitions are at stake. However, after Krishna’s vivid verbal depictions of the Jarasandha’s human sacrifice atrocities, Yudhisthira gives his approval to the Special Forces operation, worth of the Hollywood filming. Krishna assembles a small raid team, peaking two Pandavas brothers, the hit man Bhima and the sniper Arjuna, and leads the party through jungles and over streams to the city of Magadha.
Approaching the city the trio disguises themselves into Brahmins dressed into colorful robes and decorated with pompous garlands. Still, they avoid the main city gates and enter the city and the center palace either by climbing the walls or breaking through the monument tower.
That moment, when the team enters the high city, the royal court of Jarasandha features a Brahmin worship of the king. Mahabharata pictures almost a comic scene, when three beefy, tall and muscular figures make their way arrogantly toward the king Jarasandha through the crowd of subtle, vegetarian Brahmins.
Jarasandha welcomes the strange newcomers. Of course, all their decorations don’t full him, and Jarasandha shames them for using such a silly technique for sneaking in the place, while the blisters from bow-strings on their hands, the athletically trained movement and the dominating habits create an easily recognizable aura of Kshatriyas (Warriors).
Krishna works his way through the dialog to provoke Jarasandha for a duel. He mentions that all three castes may take vows of Santakas (Apprentices in the Veda study). Kshatriyas are not judged by their words, but by they deeds, he said, and seeing how they broke in in his city and palace Jarasandha should have an idea that these deeds will be not the deeds of his friends.
Jarasandha is really puzzled, he can’t remember anyone whom he did any ill, and who could be his enemy (that is anyone who is free and capable of fighting him). Krishna delivers a speech that Jarasandha’s actions are not hurting only those kings whom he has defeated; those actions are the scourge on the whole royal caste of Rajas:
You, king, have destroyed barons who live in this world: this atrocious guilt you have incurred, and you think yourself innocent? Greatest of rulers of men, how could a king molest honest kings? And having imprisoned the kings you want to sacrifice them to Rudra! The evil you have done, Barhadrathi, might well affect us; for we follow the Law and are capable of enforcing it. Never has there been witness to human sacrifice: how then can you wish to sacrifice men to the God-Who-Appeases [Rudra-Shiva]? A baron yourself, you give fellow barons the name of beasts! What other man has a mind as perverted as yours? (Mahabharata 2 20 6-13)
Jarasandha gets caught into discussion, trying to defend his actions on the bases that he did nothing bad to those he did not vanquished first. And regarding those he did conquer, well, “Woe to the vanquished”; he considers he has the right to do what he’s pleased to them: to keep them as a cattle waiting to be slain, and to sacrifice them to his Devine Master when he considers it is the right moment to do so.
Krishna tells Jarasandha to get prepared to the duel. Jarasandha consecrates his son to be the king of Magadha just in case, and goes to fight Bhima one to one. Krishna, remembering Brahma’s prediction that Jarasandha won’t be defeated by the member of his family, choses Bhima to be the champion. The spectacular duel lasts for fourteen days, and finally when Jarasandha has started to show signs of tiring, Bhima, on the hint of Krishna, goes for the final blow:
Thus spoken to, powerful Bhima, enemy-tamer, lifted high the mighty Jarasandha and hurled him around; when he had hurled him a hundred times, bull of the Bharatas, he threw him down, broke his back with his knees, pounded him and bellowed forth. (Mahabharata 2 22 5)
Some editions also add that when Jarasandha was thrown on the ground, his body split into two parts, back to his weird original shape.
Krishna waists no time in the former Jarasandha palace, he jumps into the aerial chariot and rushes to the highland donjon where Jarasandha kept his prisoners to save them from the dreadful fate and to set them free. Only fourteen were left alive, and they later join the crowd in Yudhisthira’s ‘rajasuya’, the Imperial Consecration procedure, where Sisupala tried to spur his unsuccessful insurrection.
What is peculiar in this story is that Rudra does not interfere with the Krishna’s actions and does not protect his protégé, as it usually happens in other stories with Rudra-Shiva admirers (we’ll take a look at those stories in next chapter). The difference here may be that Jarasandha, as well many other after him, do not correctly understand the meaning of the Indo-European sacrifice, which is not ‘bribing’ a Deity for favors toward the sacrificer, but the sacrificer acts on behalf of the being sacrificed, appealing to a Deity in the search of His help either in securing the posthumous life or reincarnation of the subject of the sacrifice.
Starkadr’s actions, which resulted in the killing of the king Vikar, were condemned by people and Starkadr himself was despised by them not because of the very act of sacrifice, but because he committed it without consent of the being scarified (Dumezil 1983 90).
Originally, conducting a human sacrifice in Indo-European tradition was allowed only to the First, Magician-Judge Function. The sentiment surrounding the sacrifice is visible in the structure and responsibilities of the Hindu Gods of the First Function, and the obsession with the observance of the right way of performing sacrifices. Mitra, being a Jurist and a Contract Guarantor was a primary receiver of sacrifices, however, not all of them, but only those done right. To catch those sacrifices which are done the wrong way, and to prevent the being sacrificed to go in vain, was the job of Varuna. And his secondary responsibility was to punish those who would misuse, spoil, or screw up the sacrifices.
The later Scandinavian and post-Vedic Hindu “counter-clockwise” shift of functions, when thunder deities of the Second Function got a more agricultural association, and the sacred aspect of the First Function has moved more to the ridges of the First and the Third Function to the more shady characters like Odin and Rudra-Shiva, the meaning of the sacrifice still stood oriented onto benefiting the subject of the sacrifice. Rudra-Shiva particularly likes and awards the self-sacrifice. The misuse of the reasons for a sacrifice, though technically producing results, leads the Sacrificial Deity of the First Function to allow interference of the Second Function’s Hero or God, the haters of atrocities.
When Krishna presented his accusations to Jarasandha, he stated two major points: it’s unacceptable to commit human sacrifices in general, and it’s flawed to treat kings, the members of the same caste, without respect. Later in the story, at the Royal Hall scene, when Bhishma was explaining why Krishna is the most worthy of being awarded with the guest gift, he stresses that the nobility of gestures is the highest virtue of the King:
A baron who, the greatest of warriors, defeats a baron in war, and having captured him, sets him free, becomes that baron’s guru. (Mahabharata 2 35 9)
It is probably too much of asking American Presidents to be the baron gurus, however, it will be definitely nice of them not to resemble the king Jarasandha, and to allow the rulers they have vanquished to have at least a fair trial, instead of the kangaroo court (condemned by the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch group) which ‘tried’ Saddam Hussein, or allowing the mob of ‘freedom fighters’, being treacherously (by Indo-European standards) ‘led from behind’, to lynch and mutilate Muammar Gaddafi.
Dumezil, Georges, 1983. The Stakes of the Warrior. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA
Dumezil, Georges, 1988. Mitra-Varuna, An Essay on Two Indo-European Representations of Sovereignty. Zone Books, New York, NY
The Mahabharata, Translated and Edited by J.A.B. van Buitenen, 1975, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL